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J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 1989 

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the 
requirements for the degree of 


© Copyright by 

Approved By 


The Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman, D.D. 

John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry 

Faculty Reader. 


Christopher Duraisingli,^liJD^D.D. / 

Otis Charles Visiting Professor in Applied Theology 

Clergy Reader 

Rector, The Episcopal Church of file Holy Spirit 




Master of Divinity Degree Thesis 

Revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church: Discernment, Leadership & Praxis 

The challenges facing Afro-Anglican congregations involve questions of mission, 
ministry and leadership. Many Afro-Anglican congregations consist of a varied mixture 
of people of African American, Afro-Caribbean, and African background or heritage. 
This diasporic context raises questions of identity, meaning, and purpose. It is against 
this backdrop that I seek to explore the heritage, identity, and ministry of Afro-Anglicans 
in the United States. I revision the identity and ministry of the Afro-Anglican Church by 
addressing the current context of Black communities, the Afro-Anglican Church, and 
critical components of visioning and leadership development. I will then propose a 
congregational approach to visioning for lay and ordained leaders seeking to be 
responsive to the needs of their surrounding neighborhoods and contribute to ministries 
justice, peace, and reconciliation. 

Charles A. Wynder, Jr. 

This thesis is dedicated 

to the memory of my parents, 

Carrie Bell Broxton Wynder Home 
my mother, 

who died during my final year of seminary 

Charles Allen Wynder, Sr., 
my father, 

who together raised me in St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church; 


to Rev. Dr. Eugene Broxton 
my uncle, 

a minister, and educator, 
whose life work has been building the 
Beloved Community; 


to Bethany Dickerson Wynder 
my wife, 

who encouraged, challenged and supported me 
throughout the writing of this thesis. 



Table of Contents 

Chapter 1 : Introduction 

Chapter 2: A Way Forward: Heritage & Legacy as Sources for Revisioning 

Chapter 3: The Context of Today’s Afro- Anglican Church 

Chapter 4: Discernment, Leadership & Praxis for Change & Transformation 

Chapter 5: Conclusion 




I thank my advisor, the Rev. Canon Ed Rodman, for sharing knowledge, wisdom, 
and insight from over thirty years of ministry, service and leadership in the Afro- 
Anglican Church and the broader Episcopal Church of the United States. He challenged 
me to be precise in my research, framing of the question, analysis, and synthesis of my 
thesis. His vision greatly informs my own thinking, writing and ministry. I thank my 
reader, Dr. Christopher Duraisingh, for challenging me to envision the Afro-Anglican 
Church as a movement of God’s people in a postcolonial and postmodern world. He 
pushed me to rigorously challenge assumptions, remain true to tradition, and remain open 
to the felt needs represented by the groaning of the people. I thank the Rev. Zenetta 
Armstrong, my clergy reader for providing me the opportunity to engage in the praxis of 
revisioning in the lived context of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit. I am grateful 
to my Susan Spilecki for her constant availability and expertise as an editor. 

Thanks to the Rev. Dr. William Kondrath for his supervision and guidance in my 
field education work which helped me to navigate congregational ministry as a 
seminarian. I am grateful to Dr. Kwok Pui Lan, Dr. Joan Martin, Dr. Angela Bauer- 
Levesque and Dr. Gail Yee for introducing me to the substance and application of 
contextual theologies of liberation, womanist. Black and postcolonial theologies. Dr. 
Fredrica Harris Thompsett, the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, and Dr. Jenny Te Paa equipped me 
to understand the Afro-Anglican Church in historical and global context. 

I am appreciative of the support, guidance and encouragement of the ordained and 
lay leaders of the Afro-Anglican Church. I am particularly indebted to Janice Wormack 


and the Washington Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians, the Rev. Canon 
Kortright Davis, PhD, the Rev. Vincent Harris, Dr. Bob Steele, the Rev. Richard Tolliver, 
PhD, and St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, Hampton, Virginia, St. Luke’s Episcopal 
Church, Washington, DC, and the Church of the Holy Spirit Mattapan, Massachusetts. I 
am grateful to the Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Baxter for planting the initial seeds of my inquiry of 
Afro-Anglicanism. I am grateful to the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris for helping me 
understand the challenges, opportunities and vocation of the Afro-Anglican Church in a 
historical context. 

I am thankful for the support and example of Dr. Badi Foster and Jon Asher who 
encouraged me to embrace this project as an important leg in my journey. 

I am particularly grateful to the Rev. Virginia Brown-Nolan and the Rev. Michele 
Hagans. Their mentoring and grants provided me with support that allowed me focus 
full-time on the experience of study, research and reflection at the Episcopal Divinity 

I also thank my family, including my parents, in-laws, siblings, uncles, aunts, and 
cousins for their support and encouragement. I am particularly grateful to Charles 
Wynder, Sr. and Carol Wynder, and Charles and Judith Dickerson for their dialogue and 
concrete feedback as I developed the ideas of this thesis. 

Lastly, I am grateful to my wife, Bethany Dickerson Wynder for her 
accompaniment and partnership throughout the work of this thesis and our continuing 


Chapter 1: Introduction 

The Felt Needs & Groaning of America ’s Black Communities 

The litany of challenges for African-descended people continues to situate Blacks 
at the bottom rung of economic of the American socioeconomic ladder. This ongoing 
nature of economic disparity and systemic poverty is a frequent reminder of the 
unfinished agenda of the War on Poverty. It is frequently seen as the unfinished agenda 
of the Civil Rights Movement. Many question the role and responsibility of the Black 
Church and other faith communities in responding to the structural inequities and 
dislocation felt by individuals and families. The wage gap, income inequality and the 
wealth gap are more than mere statistics. They impact where one lives and the quality 
and nature of housing, conversely the quality and nature of the schools attended by one’s 
children is impacted by where one lives. This translates into the quality of the education 
that children receive. Educational challenges raise the specter of what is commonly 
referred to as the achievement gap. Again, the gap between the white high school 
graduation rate and the Black high school graduation rate is more than a statistical 
number. It has an impact on whether Black teenagers will have the opportunity to attend 
college. It also impacts their job options and opportunities. Teenagers who remain 
unemployed for significant periods of time have significant problems entering the job 
market in their twenties. 

Economic and educational inequality, aggressive and unequal treatment by the 
criminal justice system, and inadequate housing are further aggravated by significant 

health care disparities. These disparities represent more than disproportionate rates of 
diabetes, HIV/AIDS, heart disease and cancer. They also represent differentials in access 
to care and treatment. The healthcare inequities result in lower life expectancies. The 
additional challenge for Blacks living in the United States is the intersection between 
class and race. The interaction of race and lower economic status contributes to cycles of 
poverty and despair that can greatly impact one’s sense of hope. It also challenges one’s 
faith and understanding of justice. The cost to the dignity of women, men, and children 
facing inadequate housing, failing schools, and few employment and educational 
opportunities is immeasurable. 

Afro- Anglicanism ‘s Opportunity to Build Beloved Community 

It is in this space and against this background that the development of a renewed 
and transformed Afro-Anglican Church is critical. If the gifts, talents, and resources of 
the congregations both clergy and laity are be deployed for their fullest potential in the 
efforts to foster the building of the beloved community, the Afro-Anglican Church must 
revision its sense of purpose, meaning and identity. This requires a recommitment to the 
best of the heritage of its founding congregations: St. Thomas’, Philadelphia; St. Philip’s, 
New York City; and St. James, Baltimore. Such a revisioning recognizes the central role 
these congregations played in responding to the cultural, spiritual, community, economic 
and political needs of their community. Their willingness as congregations to meet the 
needs of their nearby neighborhoods is what is called for in order to move beyond the 


stagnation of the social, economic and cultural challenges facing the Black community. 

Diasporic Context of Today ’s Black Communities 

Today’s Black communities are multilayered, multicultural, and transnational. 
They embody the diversity of the African Diaspora. Afro-Anglicanism has theological 
approaches, methods and ritual grounded in Black liberation theology that can assist the 
Afro-Anglican Church in being effective in building up Christian communities that can 
do the work of reconciliation, healing, justice and transformation. Equipped with 
adaptive leadership capacity, a revisioned Afro-Anglican Church will actively listen and 
discern its vocation. 

Social Context of Author & Overview 

I write as a Black man formed and shaped by the religious, ethical and spiritual 
traditions of the Afro-Anglican Church. I have studied the heritage, legacy and ongoing 
tradition of these congregations throughout my seminary studies. This thesis argues that 
revitalization of Afro-Anglican congregations requires a holistic visioning and planning 
that equips lay and ordained leaders to develop ministry, worship and service that is 
responsive to the conditions and needs of the Black community. Such visioning should 
integrate congregational discernment, holistic leadership and congregational 
development, and traditional strategic planning. I posit that engaging the congregation as 
a learning co mmuni ty supports the transformational and renewal needed for the 
reenergized and revitalized Afro-Anglican Church. My thesis includes a discussion of a 


holistic visioning and planning process currently being implemented at Church of the 
Holy Spirit in Mattapan, Massachusetts. It is based on principles of learning, adaptive 
leadership and systems theory that preferences the lived realities of local congregations 
and communities over a fixed model for congregational transformation and renewal. 

This process serves as a replicable approach that can be tailored to the particularized 
context of other congregations. 

Organization of Thesis 

The rest of this thesis is structured as follows. Chapter 2 discusses the early 
history of the Afro- Anglican Church in the United States and posits that this heritage is a 
valuable source of information for reimagining the future. Chapter 3 describes the 
socioeconomic and demographic trends shaping the current context of Black 
co mmuni ties and the Afro- Anglican congregations. Chapter 4 makes the case for 
visioning and adaptive leadership development as important competencies for Afro- 
Anglican congregations to develop and enhance. Chapter 5 provides a model of holistic 
visioning that integrates leadership development and capacity building into its planning 
process. Chapter 6 offers conclusions and suggestions for future work 


Chapter 2: A Way Forward: Heritage & Legacy as Sources for Revisioning 

All Soul’s [Episcopal] Church, on St. Nicolas Avenue, and any number of the 
traditional neighborhood churches in Harlem that had for generations boasted 
strong memberships - built on and sustained by familial loyalty and neighborhood 
ties - are now struggling to hold on to their congregations. The gentrification of 
Harlem has helped deplete their ranks, as younger residents, black and white have 
arrived but not taken up places in their pews. Longtime Harlem families, either 
cashing in on the real estate boom over the past decade or simply opting to head 
south for their retirement, have left the neighborhood and its churches. Then 
there are the deaths, as year by year, whole age bands are chipped away. Without 
a sustainable membership, and with no fresh wave of tithe-paying, collection- 
plate-filling young members, these churches have struggled to keep their doors 
open, to maintain repairs and to extend their reach in the community. Some, like 
All Soul’s, cannot afford a full-time minister, let alone operate a soup kitchen or 
clothes pantry. . . . Ministers from churches across Harlem said they had yet to 
penetrate the walls of the high priced condominiums and the million-dollar 
refurbished brownstones that now dominate the neighborhood. Some, in truth, 
expressed little desire to do so. Others said they saw the gentrification of Harlem 
as an opportunity, but one as yet unrealized . 1 

Crisis: Challenge & Opportunity 

The current context of Afro- Anglican congregations like All Souls is troubling. 
The diminished viability shown by its minimal membership and graying pews without 
any foreseeable infusion of young adults or youth is reinforced by a lack of vitality in 
mission, ministry and service. The picture does not, however, tell the full story of this 
and similar congregations that once thrived. Similar narratives can be written of Afro- 
Anglican congregations around the United States. Some were formerly cardinal parishes, 
which now struggle to maintain a resemblance of their former reputations. The picture 
includes vital and viable congregations such as St. Edmund’s in Chicago and St. Paul’s in 

1 Tremaine Lee, “Some Harlem Churches in Fight for Survival,” New York Times 24 May 2010 


Atlanta. The promise of revitalizing and re-energizing Afro- Anglican parishes involves 
recognizing the particularities of the loose network of Afro-Anglican congregations. 
Revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church and presence requires a wide lens. The current 
context addressed more directly in subsequent pages derives out of a long history and 
heritage. My survey of lay and clergy leadership of Afro-Anglican congregations 
inf orms my framing and analysis of the context of the contemplated revisioning. In this 
chapter, I address the heritage and legacy of the Afro-Anglican presence in the Episcopal 
Church. A brief survey of historic touchstones can be helpful in grounding an imagined 
future in a historic context. 2 3 

Colonial Era America, Afro-Anglicans & Slavery 

The Afro-Anglican presence in the United States begins with the incorporation of 
African slaves into Episcopal parishes during the colonial era, starting with the baptism 
of African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia in 1623. 4 African slaves and their children were 
baptized and given instruction in the catechism of the Church of England. In fact, the 
society responsible for propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts worked to support the 
baptism of African slaves in the American colonies having an Anglican presence. 5 The 

2 I surveyed clergy and lay leadership of Afro-Anglican churches about the current trends, challenges and 
opportunities they face in areas of urban ministry, leadership, and managing change. This ongoing work is 
funded by the Jonathan Daniels Fellowship of the Episcopal Divinity School. 

3 George Thompson, Filtering Your Church: Finding Your Vision and Making It Work (Cleveland: United 
Church Press, 1999). 

4 Harold Lewis, Yet with a Steady Beat: The African American Struggle for Recognition in the Episcopal 
Church (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 9. 

5 George F. Bragg, History of the Afro-American Group of the Episcopal Church (Baltimore: Church 
Advocate Press, 1922), 29. 


religious life for Christian slaves varied. Slaves were often compelled to assume the 
religious tradition of their owner. Some churches had a “Negro gallery” where slaves sat 
during the worship service. Some slaves worshiped in special chapels presided over by 
white clergy and erected for communities with a large number of African slaves . 6 The 
compelled involvement of African slaves in Episcopal Churches led to a significant 
presence of Afro-descended people in the denomination during the period of slavery. In 
fact, prior to the Civil War, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina had nearly the same 
n um ber of Afro-Anglicans as whites . 7 Alongside the “Negro gallery” and the special 
chapels developed an “invisible institution” of an indigenous and non-institutional 
“Negro church.” Here slaves connected their African religious customs, beliefs and 
ethics with the Christianity practiced in the chapel and the church . 8 The details of the 
development of the Black preacher and the practice of African slave religion are an 
essential part of the history of Afro-descended people in the United States, but exceeds 
the scope of this project . 9 Its role must be noted, as it was a midwife to the evolution of 
the institutionalized Black church. 

Colonial American, Free Africans & Afro-Anglicanism 
The sphere of the plantation does not fully describe the religious space and 
practice of Afro-descended people in the United States. A significant development 

6 Bragg, 29-30. 

7 Gardiner Shattuck, Episcopalians & Race: Civil War to Civil Rights (Lexington, KY : The University 
Press of Kentucky, 2000), 8. 

8 Bragg, 30-31. 

9 Bragg, 30. 


related to the development of Afro- Anglicanism is die life of free Africans after the 
Revolutionary War. Their presence in the Northern states increased over time, as the 
number of free Africans grew during the colonial and post-Revolutionary War periods. 
This increased presence of Blacks developed in Northern states where some worshipped 
in predo minan tly white congregations such as Trinity Parish, New York , 10 which had 
included Afro-descended people in its ministry from the early days of its establishment . 11 
Free Africans in Northern communities organized their communal life to be mutually 
beneficial and supportive. African societies formed in cities like Philadelphia, Boston 
and New York. These societies corresponded with one another. The Prince Hall Masons 
also served as a cornerstone organization for the Afro-descended community in 
Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The interplay between mutual aid societies like the 
Free African Society, Prince Hall Masons and efforts to organize Black congregations led 
to symmetrical responses in Northern free Black urban communities . 12 

Free African Society, Community & Church 

The Free African Society in Philadelphia played a particularly significant role in 
the development of institutional African corporate life and presence in the Episcopal 
Church. Its leaders included Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. The Free African 

10 Bragg, 46, 80. 

11 Bragg, 81. 

12 Bragg, 46, 55; Edward Rodman, “Walk About Zion: An Overview of the Dynamics Affecting Urban 
Ministry in the Black Episcopal Church,” Anglican Theological Review Vol. LXXVI, No. 4 (Fall 1994), 
445; David Hackett, “The Prince Hall Masons and the African American Church: The Grand Labors of 
Grand Master and Bishop James Walker Hood, 1831-1918,” Church History Vol. 69, No. 4 (Dec. 2000), 


Society grew out of the refusal of Philadelphia’s St. George’s Methodist Church to 
respect its African members’ ministry, service and contributions to the congregation. 
Jones and Allen were lay leaders in St. George’s and known for the effective ministry and 
evangelism in the African community of Philadelphia. The African members of 
congregations participated and contributed significantly to an expansion of the church. 
After doing so, the members were told they would have to sit in the balcony or “Negro 
gallery.” Jones and Allen refused and were removed from the church while on their knees 
in prayer. The systemic failure of the congregation to treat its African members as full 
members of its communion contributed to the founding of the Free African Society in 
Philadelphia. 13 The Free African Society was a benevolent and reform society. Members 
were committed to the maintenance of moral standards and contributing money “toward 
the provision for the poor.” 14 The society and others like it provided “mutual aid, burial 
assistance and relief of windows and orphans.” The Free African Society petitioned the 
Philadelphia Common Council in 1790 and rented a section of Potters field as a burial 
ground for Philadelphia’s Africans. 15 The Free African Society was not merely a secular 
organization, but rather a religious organization concerned with the moral formation of its 
members along with “community action” and “social welfare.” 16 Its members were 
limited to “free Africans” who were committed to “becoming] worthy exemplars to the 

13 Lewis, 27. 

14 Lewis, 27. 

15 Brian Terpak, “Building the Black Zion: The Role of Black Churches in Creating Philadelphia’s Free 
Black Church, 1787-1820,” 15; Lewis, 28. 

16 Lewis, 28. 


black race yet in bonds.” It was their hope that their behavior and actions would speed the 
decision of whites to support the emancipation of all Africans in bondage. 

African Church & St. Thomas African Episcopal Church 
The Society decided to become the African Church in 1792. The church’s edifice was 
completed in 1794. 17 Shortly after completing the building, the members of the African 
Church agreed conditionally to affiliate with the Episcopal Church. The members’ 
conditions included reception into the Episcopal Church as an already-organized body; 
autonomy and local control of their affairs; and that one of their members be licensed as 
their Lay Reader It was further stipulated that this person, “if found, fit” become their 
ordained minister. Lammers observed that the members favored the Episcopal Church 
over the Methodist Church in part because of the fluid nature of authority and structure. 
The Bishop favored independent congregations along with the provision of “necessary 
theological and liturgical structure and financial support.” 18 Agreement to these 
conditions by the Episcopal Church would make St. Thomas African Episcopal Church 
the first independent African church and the first African Episcopal congregation in the 
United States. 19 Announcement of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church’s reception into 
the Episcopal Church was made on October 12, 1794. The congregation immediately 
petitioned for the ordination of Absalom Jones. Favorable action on the petition required 
the Bishop waive proficiency in Greek and Latin by ordained ministers. Absalom Jones 

17 Bragg, 57. 

18 Lewis, 29. 

19 Lewis, 28. 


did not have such proficiency. The Bishop acted favorably on the petition to ordain 
Absalom Jones with the significant condition that St. Thomas African Episcopal Church 
be precluded from sending clergy or deputies to the Diocesan Convention or “interfere 
with the general government of the Episcopal Church.” James Abercrombie, Secretary 
for the Convention, noted in the minutes that the condition was “made in consideration of 
their peculiar circumstances at present.” 20 Richard Allen would go on to establish the 
African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. He and Absalom Jones would 
continue to work together for the improvement of the lives of the Black community in 
Philadelphia. Absalom Jones would serve nine years as deacon before being priested in 
1804. St. Thomas would lose several efforts to rescind the condition excluding it from 
participation in Diocesan Convention and the general government of the Episcopal 
Church. It was not until the Convention of 1 863 that it was fully admitted to 
Convention. 21 The condition placed on the reception of St. Thomas into the Episcopal 
Church was a mark of the denominations’ reluctance to accept Afro- Anglicans as full 
members of their communion. St. Thomas’ enduring struggle for frill participation in the 
church foretold generations of ongoing struggle by Afro- Anglicans for this in the 
Episcopal Church. 

St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, Absalom Jones, and Richard Allen are also 
significant for the character and nature of their ministries to the community of 
Philadelphia. They saw the Black church as an “impregnable comer of the world where 

20 Bragg, 63. 

21 Bragg, 68. 


consolation, solidarity, and mutual aid could be found. . ” 22 Worshipping God, 


instructing youth and care of the poor were core purposes of these congregations. 

New Fruit: St. Philips Episcopal Church, New York City 
Other African Episcopal congregations that would develop in Baltimore and New York 
City would replicate their legacy of ministering to the needs of the community inside and 
outside their congregations. St. Philips, New York City was founded in 1818 having 
developed as a mission of Trinity Parish, New York City. Trinity Parish and its African 
members worked to nurture the development of a sustainable congregation for Afro- 
Anglicans in New York City. Its first minister, Peter Williams, was a lay reader formed at 
Trinity Parish. The congregation, like St. Thomas, was not fully accepted into the 
Diocese of New York. Thirty-four years passed before St. Philips was a full member in 
the diocese. St. Philips mirrored the outreach and advocacy of St. Thomas. Its rector, 

Peter Williams, and other members were outspoken abolitionist and opponents of the 
colonization movement which sought to “repatriate” Africans in America to Liberia. 24 St. 
Philips also was the midwife of several ministers and church leaders who were active in 
the 19 th century, including Alexander Crummell, Samuel DeGrasse, and Samuel Vreeland 
Berry 25 

St. James First African Church & Question of Bondage 

22 Terpak, 15. 

23 Extract of Letter from Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia to Granville Sharp. August 27, 1791, 4. 

24 Lewis, 32.; Carter G. Woodson, History of the Negro Church (Washington, D.C.: Association Publishers, 
1921), 95. 

25 Bragg, 86. 


St. James First African Church in Baltimore, Maryland was die first Afro- 
Anglican congregation established below the Mason-Dixon Line marking the geopolitical 
boundary between North and South. Founded in 1827, its location in a slaveholding state 
underscores the significance of the missionary work of its first minister William 
Levington. Levington was ordained in St. Thomas, Philadelphia and his ministry, mission 
and leadership are particularly significant because of his commitment to include slave 
and free Africans in the life of St. James First African Church. This vision was shared by 
the Bishop, and also resisted by some of the free Africans of the congregations. 

Levington dealt squarely with the difference of class, color and caste within the 
community of Blacks in Baltimore. His ministry was characterized by Bragg in this 
compelling manner: 

Mr. Levington was a young man about thirty years of age, and he had thrust upon 
him in addition to the matter of gaining a support and erection of a building, one 
of the knottiest problems that could have been presented. He had not taken upon 
hims elf the mission southward for the purpose of establishing a “chapel of ease,” 
s im ply for free Negroes, but to help and benefit the entire race, bond and free. 26 

Questions and objections were raised by free members of the congregations as to “why 

we have constituted our brethren members of the Church and entitled them to vote, who 

are in bondage.” Levington and the vestry answered with verses from Gal. 3-28, 1 Cor. 

7:22, and Acts 10: 34-35 affirming the unity of free and slave. They noted the wishes of a 

significant donor that a church and school be built for the “benefit of the African race 

forever.” They noted too the donations of people from Baltimore, New York, Boston, 

26 Bragg, 93. 


Troy, Hartford, Albany, and Philadelphia. Lastly, they cited die desires of the Bishop 
who supported the establishment of St. James. They indicated that he “met with a number 
of us in the church, and told us that the great object in erecting the church was that both 
bond and free might serve God and prepare for another world; and above all people in the 
world he thought we ought to be most united.” The rationale for affirming the united 
ministry of a church and school for free and slave was concluded with words from Heb. 
13:3, “[N]o, we will remember them that are in bonds as bound with them ourselves.” 27 
Like St. Thomas and St. Philips, St. James also shaped the call to ministry in several 
clergypersons. Bragg observes that St. James’ day school “exerted a marvelous influence 
in the community” despite the congregation’s relative small size. St. James' First 
African Church’s discernment of its vocation to minister to slave and free foreshadowed 
ongoing questions of social identity, class and mission for Afro- Anglicans and their 

Emancipation & Evangelization of Newly Freed Africans 

The Civil War and end of slavery was a crisis point for the Episcopal Church and 
its relationship with Afro- Anglicans in the South. Its connection with the slaveholding 
class and the compulsory affiliation of slaves to the Episcopal denomination led to a 
massive exodus of Afro- Anglicans from its ranks. This was mirrored in other all the 
Protestant denominations. Scholars estimate that two-thirds of Black church members in 
the South left the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other denominations by 1866. 

27 Bragg, 93-94. 

28 Bragg, 95. 


Only a small fraction remained in white denominations in 1871. 29 The relationship and 

interplay between paternalism, social control and Christianity in the white-led 

deno minat ions made independent Black-led Baptist and Methodist congregations 

attractive. 30 Lewis recognizes the breadth of knowledge by Afro- Anglicans of the 

Episcopal Church’s relationship and role in their enslavement and the peculiar institution 

of slavery. 31 Those who remained in the Episcopal Church did so with a number of 

considerations and motivations. Lewis writes, 

Black Episcopalians who remained in the Episcopal Church knew well that it was 
the church of the plantocracy, and that the planters had interpreted and adapted its 
teachings so as to justify and perpetuate the institution of slavery. They knew well 
that “it became the custom of plantation owners to take their slaves to Church . . . 
because they thought religious would be a civilizing influence and thus make their 
property easier to handle. Nevertheless, they also could understand that such uses 
to which the Church had been put were not intrinsic to the doctrine of the 
Episcopal Church, but instead were aberrations of it. Black Episcopalians 
remained in the Church to recapture that intrinsic nature. 32 

Lewis goes on to minimize the class and regional differences in the motivations to remain 

connected to the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church’s study of efforts to 

evangelize Afro- Anglicans after the Civil War found few who returned to the 

denomination. It also noted an association between social class and church affiliation. 

Those remaining “had some education, some property and some social status.” Others 

such as Alexander Crummell noted that the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism had 

29 Katharine Dvorak, An African-American Exodus: The Segregation of the Southern Churches (Brooklyn: 
Carlson Publishing, 1991), 2. 

30 Shattuck, 8. 

31 Lewis, 40-45; Shattuck, 8-9. 

32 Lewis, 59. 

33 Lewis, 58; Journal of the General Convention (1877), 491. 


particular attributes useful to the Afro-descended people in the United States in the 
broader African Diaspora. 34 

Freedman ’s Commission & Freedmen ’s Bureau 

The Episcopal Church’s first efforts to evangelize to Southern Blacks after the 
Civil War included the creation of The Freedman’s Commission, modeled and named 
after the federal government’s Freedmen’ s Bureau, which was charged with assisting, 
educating and protecting the newly freed slaves. 35 The Freedman’s Commission focused 
on creating schools for the newly emancipated Blacks living in the south. The last 
surviving school it created is St. Augustine’s College, founded originally as St. 
Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute. 36 The work of the Freedman’s 
Commission had minimal impact. It failed to connect its work in education with the 
Church. This separation and failure to develop and support the development of Black 
ordained leadership and models for post-slavery congregations paralyzed the 
Commission. 37 Shattuck notes the conservative intentions of the Freedmen’s 
Commission were grounded in a concern of fostering “social stability” in the South, 
much like the mission to slaves in the antebellum era. 38 Less than a decade after 
commencing, The Freedman’s Commission ended its work in 1874. Its report to the 
General Convention noted the lack of “any sincere interest in this department of 

34 Wilson Jeremiah Moses, Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (New York: 
Oxford University Press, 1989), 26, 281-284. 

35 Shattuck, 10. 

36 Lewis, 49. 

37 Lewis, 48-55. 

38 Shattuck, 10. 


beneficence .” 39 Further, “diminishing concern for the spiritual affairs of black 
southerners paralleled both the decline in the political importance of African Americans 
and the waning of the federal Reconstruction Program .” 40 Efforts to separate Afro- 
Anglicans from being in full communion with the entire body of the Episcopal Church 
dominated the agenda from throughout the Reconstruction period into the early twentieth 
century. Crummell joined with others to create the Conference of Church Workers 
Am ong Colored People. This body worked to respond to the efforts of some in the 
Episcopal Church to further marginalize the remaining Afro-Anglicans in the South and 
isolate those in the North . 41 

Space does not allow me to detail the history of the Sewanee Conference and the 
response of the Conference of Church Workers. The work of Crummell and the 
Conference provides witness to the multi-layered rationale and commitment of Afro- 
Anglicans to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church despite an inhospitable 
institutional environment as a significant and lasting legacy of Afro-Anglicans and their 

Models of Dependency 

39 Lewis, 52; Journal of the General Convention (1874) 505. 

40 Shattuck, 1 1 . 

41 Following the Sewanee Conference, it was founded at Church of the Holy Communion in New York City 
in 1883, and met in New York City in 1884, Richmond 1885, St. Luke’s Washington DC 1886 and 
regularly thereafter. The Union of Black Episcopalians traces its history, purpose and mission to the work 
of the Conference of Church Workers Among Colored People. Bragg, 161; Shattuck, 4-29; Rodman, Let 
There Be Peace Among Us, 8-12 


The effect of this flawed Freedmen’s Commission’s missionary strategy is worthy 
of consideration. This is particularly true of the creation and perpetuation of a culture of 
dependency. T his dependency manifested itself in various forms. Sometimes Afro- 
Anglican congregations were attached to white parishes. They could also fall under the 
full supervision and direction of the Bishop . 42 Both situations portray a body of Afro- 
Anglicans gathered as a congregation without the status, rights and privileges of a parish. 
This situation stands in direct contrast with St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, 
Philadelphia, St. Philips, New York City, and St. James, Baltimore. These and other 
early Afro- Anglican churches positioned themselves to be “self-supporting at the time of 
inception .” 43 Lewis underscores the impact of this dependency in referencing the 
impressions of Bragg. Lewis writes, 

This missionary strategy according to Bragg, had the effect of “discouraging and 
disheartening ... the aspiring self-respecting of our group,” and proved to have a 
far-reaching and deleterious effect on the development of black congregations. 
North and South, as black Episcopalians, believing that a bishop or a diocese was 
morally bound to provide the church for them, readily accepted such largess even 
when they were able to provide for themselves . 44 

The internal development of resources to sustain the congregation can be 

effectively impeded when countered by a sense of dependency on resources external to 

the congregation. This false security of minimum expenditures by the dioceses allowed 

42 Lewis, 53; Carol George, Segregated Sabbaths: Richard Allen and the Rise of Independent Black 
Churches, 1760 - 1840 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 63. 

43 Lewis, 53; Robert Bennett, “Black Episcopalians: A History from the Colonial Period to the Present” in 
Historical Magazine of the Episcopal Church 43 (September 1974), 240; Thomas Will, “Liberalism, 
Republicanism, and Philadelphia’s Elite in the Early Republic: The Social Thought of Absalom Jones and 
Richard Allen,” Pennsylvania History, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Autumn 2002), 558-576. 

44 Lewis, 53; George, 15, 236. 


for the mere maintenance of ministry and squelched die possibility of die evolution of 
vitality and viability for many mission churches. These dependent congregations did not 
achieve the status of parish and thus did not have the autonomy needed to build a 
sustainable and vibrant congregation. Bragg understood the importance of connecting 
mission, ministry and leadership. He observed, “The work of building up from within, 
into self-support and efficiency is peculiarly associated with the constructive leadership 
of members of the group whose self-expression is attempted.” 45 
Afro-Angliccm Churches & Early Urban Mission Models 
Many Afro- Anglican parishes were established as missions. The role of Afro- 
Anglicans in the mission institutional church movement is less known. Afro- Anglicans 
joined Black Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Quakers and others in the 
movement of institutional churches, missions and settlement houses in urban areas 
around the country. Their adaptation of the mission models used by the American 
Mission Association and others in Reconstruction proved successful and warrants 
mention. 46 Missions and settlement houses served to “reweave a deteriorating social 
fabric.” 47 “The New York Colored Mission, founded in 1865 as the African Sabbath 
School Association was an expression of Quaker city mission philanthropy.” In the 
1870s it focused on social service functions such as a nursery, medical mission, housing 

45 Lewis, 54; George, 49-50. 

46 Ralph Luker. “Missions, Institutional Churches, and Settlement Houses: The Black Experience, 1885 - 
1910,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 69, No. 3/4 (Summer —Autumn, 1984), 101-102, 105. 

47 Luker, 103. 


and employment bureau. 48 The Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion, Philadelphia and St. 
Philips Episcopal Church, New York were two the earliest institutional churches along 
with Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and First Congregational Church in 
Atlanta. 49 St. Philips is particularly interesting because of its heritage as the second 
oldest Afro-Anglican congregation. St. Philips itself was birthed originally as a mission. 
It then positioned itself for independence and became one of New York’s first and rare 
Black-led congregations. In it was established a home for elderly women in 1875, and a 
Guild for young men which offered the opportunity for community youth to participate in 
“glee club, amateur dramatics, and a remarkable athletic program, sponsoring track 
teams, amateur boxing and the country’s first black basketball team in 1908.” 50 The 
work of denominational institutional churches expanded to Abyssinian Baptist, Bethel 
A.M.E. Metropolitan, and St. Mark’s Methodist Episcopal by 1912. In fact, St. Cyprian’s 
Episcopal Mission in New York began to follow St. Philips’ example. 51 These models 
have a place in dialogue with the legacy of the Free African Society, St. Thomas African 
Episcopal Church and St. James and provide a historical context for revisioning today’s 
Afro-Anglican congregations. 

Bringing Forward the Legacy of the Early Afro-Anglican Congregations 

8 Luker, 102. 

49 Luker, 105. 

50 Luker, 107; Carla Peterson, Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth- 
Century New York City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). 

51 Luker, 108. 


I do not seek to provide a litany of the history of Afro-Anglican congregations . 52 
Bringing the legacy of these parishes forward is needed, but is beyond the scope of this 
paper. Rather, this brief history is a testimony of the extended presence of Afro- 
Anglicans in the United States. It also underscores the legacy of concern of congregations 
for the broader community. St. Thomas and St. Philips provide historic examples of 
responsive congregational ministry, leadership and service. Many clergy and laypersons 
played prominent roles as individuals in their local communities and scores impacted the 
fields of politics, law, medicine, business, and education. A re-imagined Afro- 
Anglicanism would necessitate grappling with the meaning of past and current 
entitlement and class privilege. The current proposed revisioning seeks to identify, 
develop and engage the constituent elements and processes needed to “envision a 


community-based religiously oriented” network of congregations. 

Chapter 3 - The Context of Today’s Afro-Anglican Church 

Having surveyed the history of the Afro-Anglican Church in the United States 
through the early twentieth century, it is appropriate to explore critical aspects of its 
current context. A significant aspect of this context is the increasing diversity of the 

52 George Bragg’s work of 1922 is the authoritative source during its time. 

53 Edward Rodman, “Walk About Zion: An Overview of the Dynamics Affecting Urban Ministry in the 
Black Episcopal Chinch,” Anglican Theological Review Vol. LXXVI, No. 4 (Fall 1994), 445. 


Afro-descended population in communities around the United States. This diversity of 
nationalities and ethnicities within the United States reflecting the African Diaspora has 
grown significantly since the early years of the twentieth century. Chapter 1 reviewed 
the heritage of the Afro-Anglican Church predominantly through the lens of Black 
descendants of the first two hundred years of slavery in the United States. These Black 
descendants of African slavery represent the dominant narrative of the history and 
heritage of Black people living in the United States from the colonial period to the 
present. This narrative and the particular histories connected to it, however, is not the 
only narrative of Afro-descended people in the United States or the Episcopal Church. 
The immigration of Black people from the Caribbean and Africa has altered the 
demographics of the Afro-descended population in the United States. It has also raised 
questions about the meaning and definition of “Black” in many institutions and spaces 
encountered by Black people. The Afro-Anglican Church is one of the multi-layered 
spaces and institutions impacted by these changing demographics. 

Migration & the “Meaning” of Blackness 

Statistics do not exist to detail the racial and ethnic composition of congregations 
in the Episcopal Church. Nonetheless, exploring the broader statistics of Afro-Caribbean, 
African and Afro-Latino immigration within the Black population of the United States is 
useful. It provides invaluable information for the environment and context within which 
the Afro-Anglican and broader Black Church exists. Demographers considered the Black 
co mmuni ty a closed population from 1808 through 1965 because of the limited voluntary 


immigration of Afro-descended people during that period. The numbers of Blacks was 

projected based on natural growth of the population within the United States. This 

changed after the immigration reform in 1965. 

The arrival of foreign-bom black people began slowly in the 1960s, and it 
increased steadily in succeeding decades. During the 1990s, some 900,000 black 
immigrants entered the United States from the Caribbean and another 400,000 
came from Africa, while Europe and Australia supplied still others, profoundly 
altering the African American population. By the beginning of the twenty-first 
century, more Africans had arrived than during the centuries of the slave trade. 
Other peoples of African descent - particularly from the Caribbean - joined the 
influx. The number of black immigrants was increasing faster than the number of 
American bom blacks, and, between 1990 and 2000, black newcomers accounted 
for fully one-quarter of the growth of the African American population. Black 
America, like white America, was also becoming an immigrant society. 54 

The economic, political, and social meaning of these developments have only recently 

been studied. The full implications of this demographic swing are beyond the scope of 

this paper. The cultural significance is being lived out in many ways. The Catholic 

Diocese of New York conducts services in Ashanti and Fante. Chicago now has 

Cameroonian Independence Day and a Nigerian Festival at the DuSable Museum of 

African American History. The impact of these demographic changes on the 

neighborhoods and communities ministered to and served by Afro-Anglican 

congregations calls on significant research that naturally flows from this data. 55 The 

markers invite the observer to examine the data more closely. More than one in twenty 

54 Ira Berlin, The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (New York: Viking, 2010); U.S. 
Census Bureau, Profile of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2000 (Washington, DC: 
2001 ). 

55 Frieder Ludwig and J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, ed., African Christian Presence in the West: New 
Immigrant Congregations and Transnational Networks in North America and Europe (Trenton, NJ: Africa 
World Press, 2011). 


Afro-descended people living in the United States during the 2000 Census was an 
immigrant. Nearly one in ten was an immigrant or a child of an immigrant. In some 
cities, black immigrant population figures are twice this number. It is projected, with die 
current rate of immigration, that the Afro-Caribbean population of New York City alone 
will exceed the number of “native black New Yorkers.” Currently, more than one-third 
of the Black population consists of immigrants. 56 

The Afro-Caribbean presence and contribution to life in the United States is not 
new to Afro-Anglican congregations. Parishioners and clergy of Afro-Caribbean descent 
have been key members and leaders of the Afro-Anglican congregations since the late 
nineteenth century. The Oxford Movement in the United States formed missions among 
people of color between 1 890 and 1 920 including urban communities with Afro- 
Caribbean immigrants. The immigration of Afro-Caribbean people raised in the 
An gli can Church helped to grow the Afro-Anglican congregations in Northern cities 
during the Great Migration. 57 Ed Rodman refers to the historic immigration of Afro- 
Caribbean peoples as the internal growing edge for the Afro-Anglican Church in the 
United States. The post- 1965 immigration continues to build on the foundation of the 
Caribbean immigration between World War I and 1965. He notes that the Afro-Latino 
community from Central America is also a growing component of the diversity of the 
Afro-Anglican Church. 58 

56 Berlin, 7. 

57 Rodman, “Walk About Zion,” 452-453. 

58 Rodman, 458. 


A Framework for Reframing Migration, Hybridity & Narrative History 
Ira Berlin provides a useful paradigm for approaching the diversity of the Afro- 
descended population in the United States. He observes four migrations of Afro- 
descended people as the source of the population and demographic shifts of Black people 
in the United States. The first migration begins with the Middle Passage and the initial 
enslavement of Africans in the United States. The second migration involved the forced 
internal movement of African slaves from the eastern seaboard to the interior and Deep 
South. The third migration is often referred to as the Great Migration and involved the 
internal migration of Blacks from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast. 
The most recent and continuing migration is that of newly emigrated Africans, Afro- 
Caribbean, Afro-Latino, and Afro-descended people from Europe. This framework is 
helpful in providing a timeline of the movement of Afro-descended people across and 
within the boundaries of the United States. A significant aspect of Berlin’s observation is 
his interpretation of the implications of these migrations. He asserts that each migration 
contributes to a narrative of the identity, legacy, and transformation of Afro-descended 
people in the United States. Berlin asserts that additional strands based on recent 
migration have joined the dominant narrative of slavery to freedom that informs and 
frames the consciousness of many African Americans and Afro-descended people in the 
United States . 59 In fact, each migration has forced new issues of identity, purpose and 
meaning that included significant social, economic and political questions. This was true 

59 Berlin, 13. 


when different African tribes were commingled with various nationalities and languages 
and created a new identity in the United States. The forced internal migration from the 
seaboard states to the interior and the Deep South created further differentiation and 
pluralism among the Black population in the United States. This was further amplified 
with the Great Migration that created identities and new realities and dynamics based on 
geographic nuances of Blacks in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West . 60 

The reconstruction of meaning and interpretation of Blackness against the 
backdrop of place and movement continues and is part of the necessary work of Afro- 
descended people and their institutions. Berlin’s commentary on this work is compelling. 
He writes, 

Each iteration of African American culture was a hybrid, and could only be 
understood as the product of specific historical circumstances; it is always 
changing. Men and women often tried to freeze those changes as they searched 
for stability and permanence in a world of in constant motion by positing culture - 
in this case “blackness” - as a timeless structure. But new circumstances 
eventually demand new understandings. Those understandings — a new narrative 
or history - tried to explain how and why the new people arrived where they were 
and became who they were. Sometimes this has been a narrative of reproach: 
what was done to us. Sometimes this has been a narrative of celebration: what we 
did for ourselves. These narratives can be further divided: narratives of 
abandonment (why God failed), narratives of salvation (why we were chosen), 
narratives of edification, and so on. Movement demands a rethinking of identity; 
hence new stories . 61 

Rethinking the identity, meaning and emerging realities of the ever-changing Afro- 
descended people in the United States is essential. It is required to position Black people 
to deal with the social, economic, political and cultural challenges and opportunities of 

60 Berlin, 31-48. 

61 Berlin, 48. 


their current reality. The Afro- Anglican Church is positioned to participate in this work. 
Its extended history as a place of interaction, dialogue and communion between diverse 
people of the African Diaspora is an asset. The work of transformation, reconciliation 
and renewal is consistent with the vocation of the Church. It is not work that the clergy 
and lay leaders are inherently equipped to do. A choice to engage new ways of being 
involved in understanding is integral when moving beyond the false permanence and 
stability of old frames and identity. Hybrid culture, cities and institutions require a 
willingness to rethink and reframe. This is essential work for and transformation implicit 
in hybrid culture and institutions. Furthermore, the Afro-Anglican Church is resourced 
with liberative theologies that can aid people in dealing with their embodied narratives of 
reproach, celebration, abandonment, edification and salvation. 

Engaging Core Questions of Meaning, Mission, Purpose & Identity 

Rodman frames the essential choices facing Afro- Anglicans if they are to engage 

the opportunity to participate in the transformation, reconciliation, healing and renewal of 

the African Diaspora living within the United States. With this in mind preparatory work 

must begin both within the boundaries of the Afro-Anglican Church and the fluid context 

of the broader Black community. Rodman raises three questions for Afro- Anglicans that 

go to heart of meaning, mission, purpose and identity. Rodman writes, 

First, are we going to reclaim our heritage of being responsive to and responsible 
for our communities; or are we going to abandon them and our heritage in the 
name of progress and at the expense of our weaker and/or marginalized brothers 
and sisters? Second, are we going to embrace our fellows of the Diaspora, be they 
Caribbean, African, Central American, Canadian, British or an combination 


thereof, and make common cause as the conscience of die Anglican Communion; 
or are we going to resent their presence and allow that to become a cause of 
divisiveness and competition? Third, are we going to explore Afro-Anglicanism 
as a future model of cooperation and mutual support; or are we going to retreat 
to a parochialism based on non-identification with our own, and fascination with 
the minority Euro-centric world view? And finally, are we going to adopt a 
fortress mentality, attempt to shore up the old bulwarks, each patch up our own 
places and continue to wait for some future divine intervention that will restore 
our own little Zions to their former glory; or are we to see a new vision of a new 
heaven and a new earth, of a new Zion that is not based on defenses against our 
adversaries and build as a testimony to our pride, but rather constructed for 
inclusive community and committed to collective and concerted action to redeem 
God’s people ? 62 

These fundamental questions frame the work of the Afro-Anglican Church to realize a 
vision of a beloved community which is inclusive and undistracted from the work of 
redemption and reconciliation. His questions provide an opportunity to envision an Afro- 
Anglican Church which values mutuality and cooperation to move across parochial 
boundaries of ethnicity and nationality. Acting on these intentions positions Afro- 
Anglicans to be responsive to the communities and people who are among and around 
them. It means dealing with class and other structural oppressions that subjugate the 
vulnerable and marginalized members of the community. Implicit in this challenge is the 
choice to move beyond the false choice of attempting to restore a period of class- 
consciousness that is longstanding within many Afro- Anglicans and their 
congregations . 63 

Repositioning Congregations to Be Community Responsive 

62 Rodman, 462-463. 

63 Willard Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880 — 1920 (Bloomington: Indiana University 
Press, 1990), 272-299. 


An Afiro-Anglican Church positioned to be “responsive and responsible” for 
today’s Black communities must grapple not only with the diversity of the Afro- 
descended people and communities in the United States, but with other demographic 
shifts within these communities. A significant shift is the location where the majority of 
Black people reside. More Blacks, Asians, Latinos, foreign-bom immigrants and poor 
people live in the suburbs of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas than the primary core 
cities. Additionally, the nation’s largest metropolitan areas are increasing composed of 
the young and of people color. Black, Latino and Asian youth constitute the majority of 
people less than eighteen years of age in one hundred of the nation’s largest metropolitan 
areas. This is contrasted by an increase of whites in the primary cities of many of the 
nation’s largest metropolitan areas including New York City and Atlanta. Some are 
concerned that these demographic shifts will lead to increased racial and ethnic 
competition for public resources. These shifts have significant implications for the 
ability of the Afro- Anglican congregations in many dioceses to thrive. 

Shifts in Urban and Suburban Demographics 

Many Afro- Anglican congregations are situated inside the primary cities of large 
metropolitan areas. These congregations will have to revision their sense of mission and 
ministry given the demographic shift that places a plurality of Blacks in the suburbs of 
the largest metropolitan areas. This does not mean, however, that the Afro-Anglican 
church does not have a role to play within the primary cities. Some of the metropolitan 
areas may have lost Blacks to the suburbs, but continue to have large numbers of Blacks 


within the primary city. Many of those remaining in the primary city may also be low- 

income and poor Blacks. Detroit is an example of this phenomenon. Detroit lost 185,393 

Black residents in the last decade. Much of population loss is due to decades of Black 

flight to the suburbs. This exodus started in the 1960s. 64 Nonetheless, a significant Black 

population remains with significant economic, social, and political needs. Some Afro- 

Anglican churches may need to revision a new mission and ministry that includes whites. 

Latinos not of African descent, and Asians living in newly gentrified areas that were 

formerly predominantly Black. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and St. George’s Episcopal 

Church in Washington, D. C. face this phenomenon. 

Washington’s black population slipped below 50 percent this year, possibly in 
February, about 5 1 years after it gained a majority . . . Their context has changed 
in their immediate neighborhood and against the larger demographic shifts of the 
city. But race and class issues often overlap, and as the city’s demographics shift 
— the white population jumped by 3 1 percent in the past decade, while the black 
population declined by 1 1 percent — many less affluent blacks say they are 
feeling left out of the city’s improving fortunes. In April, the Census Bureau 
reported that Ward 8, in the city’s mostly poor and black southeast, had the 
highest jobless rate in the country. 

Similar dynamics were observed in parts of New York City. The Black population fell 
and the white population grew in parts of Brooklyn, central Harlem and the Bronx. This 
shift increased income and wealth gaps in neighborhoods and was aggravated by 

^Katharine Seelye, “Detroit Census Confirms a Desertion Like No Other,” The New York Times 23 March 
2011. Web. 


65 Sabrina Taverse, “A Population Changes, Uneasily,” New York Times, 17 July 201 1, 
www.nvtimes.corn/201 l/07/18/us/18dc.html?%20black=&%20washington%20dc%20=&sq=2010%20cens 


persistent racial segregation in New York’s core city and suburban areas. 66 

In 2000, on average, a black suburbanite lived in a neighborhood that was 47 
percent black. In 2005-9, that neighborhood would have been 44 percent black, 
the analysts found. In 1970, whites in the metropolitan area were likely to live in 
a neighborhood that was 92 percent white, a figure that declined to 76 percent in 
2000, and to 73 percent in 2005-9. “New York is among a group of metropolitan 
regions,” Professor Logan said, “where the Great Migration created large black 
ghettos, and where very high levels of segregation have proved very resistant to 
change.” 67 

These demographic shifts, which include persistent segregation and income inequality, 
represent structural challenges to the opportunity for Blacks and Latinos to access 
healthcare, education, and job opportunities. 68 

High Rates of Long-term Unemployment 

The current economic reality within the Black communities of the United States 
continues to erode. Blacks continue to face disproportionately high rates of 
unemployment, which make it difficult for African Americans to overcome the effects of 
poverty and the related challenges of long-term unemployment. The high to extremely 
high rates of unemployment for Blacks is part of a fifty year trend. The highest rates of 
unemployment for Whites in the most recent years fall within the range of the lowest 
rates for African Americans over the last fifty years. African Americans have had 
extremely high unemployment that has been only “occasionally interrupted by periods of 

66 Sam Roberts, “Region Is Reshaped as Minorities Go to Suburbs,” New York Times 14 Dec. 2010, 
www.nytimes. com/20 10/12/1 5/nyregion/ 1 5nycensus.html?scp=5&sq=20 1 0%20census%20&%20new%20 
67 Ibid. 

68 Sheryll Cashin, The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream 
(New York: Public Affairs 2004), 237-260. 


merely high unemployment.” African Americans have not experienced a period of low 
unemployment for the last fifty years. 69 The recent figures cited by the Economic Policy 
Institute are equally troubling: 

• In 2007, before the recession, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, 
Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and St. Louis metropolitan areas all had 
black unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher. 

• In 20 1 0, Detroit, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis all had black 
unemployment rates of 20 percent or higher, comparable to the peak national 
unemployment rates during the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

Income Gap: Black & White Unemployment 

High unemployment relative to whites is a shared phenomenon between native 

and foreign-bom Blacks. “At 12.4%, black immigrants had the highest unemployment 

rates among foreign-bom works in 2010,” Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy 

Institute observed, “Because this disadvantage in the labor market affects both U.S. — and 

foreign-bom blacks, it points to a problem that stems from race and not cultural 

background.” 71 Equally troubling is the erosion of the Black middle class. 

It is also sobering to examine the racial difference in wealth trends. Wealth for the 
median black household has nearly disappeared, falling from $6,300 in 1983 to 
$2,200 in 2009 - a decrease of more than 65 percent. This means half of black 
households have less than $2,200 in wealth. Among white households, median 
wealth has fallen substantially since 2007, but at $97,900, remains higher than the 
1983 level of $94,100. White median wealth is now 44.5 times higher than black 

69 Algernon Austin, “For African Americans, 50 years of High Unemployment,” Economic Policy Institute, 
Economic Snapshot: Race and Ethnicity, February 22, 2012, 
americans-50-vears-high-unemplovment/ . 

70 Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute: Issue Brief #315, October 3, 2011, 1. 

71 Austin. “Blacks Have Highest Unemployment Among Foreign Bom Workers” Economic Policy Institute 
Economic, Snapshot: Immigration, August 3, 201 1, 


median wealth. 72 

Education Gap & Impact of Mass Incarceration on Black Communities 

Black high school students have the lowest graduation rates of 61.5%. 73 The 
combination of the decline in the Black middle class and the continued academic 
achievement gap between Blacks and whites pose significant challenges for the mobility, 
flourishing and opportunity of Blacks in the United States. 74 Perhaps die greatest current 
challenge to Black families, communities and institutions is the mass incarceration of 
Black men. The United States leads all countries in the rate of imprisonment of its racial 
and ethnic minorities. Despite the fact that whites are more likely to use and sell illegal 
drugs, Black men are incarcerated at rates twenty to fifty times the rate of white men in 
fifteen states. Blacks constitute eighty to ninety percent of those imprisoned in seven 
states. This troubling statistic is overshadowed when viewed against a focused view of 
massive incarceration in major cities ensnared by the War on Drugs. These communities 
witness eighty percent of young Black men with criminal records. In summary, 2006 
records show that one in every fourteen Black men was imprisoned. This is contrasted 
against a rate of one in every 106 white men. Particularly disturbing is the rate for young 
Black men wherein one in nine Black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five 

72 Lawrence Mischel, htt p:// September 21 , 201 1 . 

73 Children’s Defense Fund, The State of America’s Children 2011 Report, 

74 The Opportunity Agenda, The State of Opportunity in America 2009 Report Summary, 6. 


were behind bars. This does not include those on parole or probation. 75 Here too lies an 
opportunity for the Afro-Anglican Church to be responsive to the needs of Black 
communities. People who are incarcerated and those returning to their families and 
neighborhoods after prison are too often marginalized by all parts of the community. 
Those trapped by mass incarceration live in the intersection of race and class. The 
implications for appropriate policy strategy approaches to address policy gap for low- 
income Black people warrants separate consideration. The pain and groaning for 
compassion, redemption and reconciliation embodied in the reality for too many Black 
men and youth is part of the environmental, material, historical and spiritual context of 
the New Jim Crow. This could be the place for the communities of faith and churches to 
exercise responsibility. Scripture suggests that Christians and the church are called to act. 
What else is necessary beyond the Gospel for moving the church toward discerning its 
role in this reality? 

Ad Hoc Clergy Committee: Examples of Revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church 

A committee of Afro-Anglican clergy conducted an integrated and holistic survey 
and vision for the Afro-Anglican Church and broader Episcopal Church in 1968. 
Authored by Joseph Nicholson, on behalf of the Ad Hoc Clergy Committee, What is 
Happening to the Negro in the Protestant Episcopal Church provides a model for 
corporate discernment, advocacy and strategic planning that is urgently needed to 

75 Michele Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: 
The New Press, 2010), 7, 96-98; Herbert Thompson, Let My People Go (Cincinnati: Forward Movement, 
2001 ). 


revision the Afro-Anglican Church. 76 Updating this report and replicating its holistic 
approach is a contemplated extension of this current project. It is essential work to clarify 
the current context of the Afro-Anglican Church and its related communities of concern. 
Another part of task of revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church should include a survey of 
the location of Afro-Anglican congregations in the largest metropolitan areas. Mapping 
the presence of Afro-Anglican congregations in primary core cities and those located in 
the suburbs is a significant step in helping Afro-Anglicans enhance their capacity to be 
responsive to community needs. The map of Afro-Anglican congregations should be 
correlated with a survey and map of the members of the congregation and the 
demographics makeup in the areas contiguous with the location of the congregations and 
its members. This information is not available for this author to incorporate into this 
project. The interpretation of this information along with the listening and discernment of 
community needs can assist Afro-Anglican congregations in answering the questions 
posed earlier by Rodman that go to the heart of meaning, mission, purpose and identity of 
the Afro-Anglican Church. 

Report of the Coalition of Urban Bishops 

The proposed discernment, listening and visioning can be modeled and adapted 

from that used by the Coalition of Urban Bishops of the Episcopal Church in 1977. 

76 Joseph Nicholson, What is Happening to the Negro in the Protestant Episcopal Church? (Ad Hoc Clergy 
Committee, 1968). 


Conducted during a period of sustained diocesan and government funding for urban 
mini stry, the published report provides a framework for local parishes to replicate . 77 This 
is im portant to note as the current funding and programmatic capacity of the National 
Episcopal Church and current foundation funding priorities may restrict the national 
replication of the model. Local, regional and diocesan level discernment of the felt needs 
of people in the metropolitan areas remains a valuable step in the Church acting 
responsively and responsibly in mutual relationship with communities and 

Addressing Racism & Racial Justice 

The Ad Hoc Clergy Committee, What is Happening to the Negro in the Protestant 
Episcopal Church and the development of the Union of Black Episcopalians provided a 
call to action for the Episcopal Church . 78 Rodman has been one of the leaders 
consistently renewing the call to the Episcopal Church to grapple with its role in 
addressing institutional and structural racism and address racial justice, reconciliation and 
healing . 79 Today’s context involves an increased presence of African, Afro-Latino, and 
Afro-Caribbean immigrants. The growing transnational context of the Black community 
in the United States deserves additional theological consideration. What is the meaning of 

77 The Urban Bishops Coalition, To Hear and to Heed: The Episcopal Church Listens and Acts in the City 
(Cincinnati: Forward Movement Publications, 1978). 

78 Ed Rodman, Let There Be Peace Among Us: A Story of the Union of Black Episcopalians 
(Lawrenceville, VA: Brunswick Publishing Corporation, 1990). 

79 Ed Rodman, “A Lost Opportunity? An Open Letter to the Leadership of die Episcopal Church” in To 
Heal the Sin-Sick Soul: Toward a Spirituality of Anti-Racist Ministry ed. Emmett Jarrett (New London, CT: 
The Episcopal Urban Caucus, 1996, 2003), 66, 78. 


Blackness today? How do African descended people identify themselves in relationship 
to each other? What is their relationship to die political, economic and cultural 

Diasporic Black Communities 

Afro-descended people living in the multi-national, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic 
setting of the United States and in the multicultural context of Black communities 
constantly negotiate fluid boundaries. The interaction among Africans, Afro-Caribbean, 
Afro-Latinos, and African Americans is not new. The scale of immigration over the last 
twenty years increased the regularity and nature of the diasporic interaction. The scale 
and location of the interaction warrants consideration of a hermeneutic from below. 
Theological reflection about ways to mediate the multiplicity of identities is not widely 
exercised. Instead, African descended people living in the United States are often 
essentialized as having a universal experience and context. The Afro-Anglican Church 
can develop new analytic approaches that recognize the complexity of identities arising 


from the diasporic community. 

DuBois’ Double Consciousness & the Church 

W.E.B. DuBois may also be helpful in reconsidering the African diasporic 
context of urban Black Afro-Anglican congregations. The application of looking at 
hybridity in Afro-Anglican Church can be seen in Kortright Davis’ “Black Anglican 
Congregations.” He frames the discussion of the hybridity of the these congregations 

80 Ania Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism (New York: Routledge, 1998), 176. 


with DuBois’ concept of “ double consciousness .” 81 The discussion of the needed 

negotiation of the constantly moving identity of Afro- Anglicans has implications for 

postcolonial theological discursive action. He writes: 

There are those who are quick to remind us that, while all Episcopalians are 
Anglicans, all Anglicans are not Episcopalians. But the existence of the color line 
in the Episcopal Church, as well as the spiritual, social, and moral vitality of 
blacks as minority members in a white church, is still a problem. What does one 
do with the double-consciousness of being African, and American today? Further, 
what does none do with the triple consciousness of being African, American (or 
resident in the United States), and Episcopalian? This poses a possible dilemma 
for many Afro-Anglicans, who - for better or worse - must also recognize and 
respond to their identity as members not only of the black community but also of 
the black church (at least in a mystical and emotional way ). 82 

Grappling with the significance of these questions is important given the overlay of the 

dynamics and demographics within the Episcopal Church. Ed Rodman cogently sets the 


Underlying this paradigm shift is our understanding of our own place in the 
growing cultural diversity which is America, as well as the Episcopal Church. 

This cuts two ways. Internally, our growing edge as Black Episcopalians is to be 
found primarily in first and second generation Afro-Caribbean immigration, 
which has built upon the strong foundation laid by their forebears in urban centers 
on the east coast since World War I. This is a augmented by their Central 
American cousins . . . The final component of this internal diversity is the 
significant number of Africans, both clergy and lay, who have immigrated to this 
country in the past ten years. Indeed, many of our churches are becoming 
microcosms of Afro-Anglicanism without even knowing the term, much less 
being self-conscious in pursuing its objectives . 83 

81 Davis, Kortright, “Black Anglican Congregations” in In Praise of Congregations: Leadership in the 
Local Church Today, ed. Charles E. Bennison, Jr. (Boston: Cowley Publications 1999), 164-165. 

82 Davis, 165. 

83 Rodman, “Walk About Zion,” 457-458. 


The intercultural difference within the Afro-Anglican Church is clearly a diasporic 
context. It is multi-layered and centered in multiple points of identity. An opportunity 
exists within these settings to explore meaning, identity, autonomy and purpose. 

Afro-Anglicanism: Theological Response to Internal Diversity 

Afro-Anglican liberation theological frames and approaches exist which can 
inform continued exploration of the dialectic between traditional Anglicanism and Afro- 
Anglican liberation theology. 84 A liberation Eucharist exists with symbols and language 
that embodies a commitment to mutual respect, self-love and self-affirmation that 
incarnates the use of power resists oppression - including internalized oppression. The 
presentations of the Conference on Afro-Anglicanism in 1985 held at Codrington, 
College in Barbados are worth revisiting to explore the ways the Afro-Anglican Church 
can further enhance a theology which assist it in fulfilling its commitment to meeting the 
social and economic development needs of the community through its religious 
congregations, meeting the need for community solidarity, fulfilling the spiritual needs, 
and countering the oppression of race, class, gender, sexual orientation and other 
interlocking oppressions. 85 Fulfillment of this vision requires recognition of the value of 
building communities that are touchstones and “sign posts” of the “way” associated with 
Christianity as a lived manner of living and relationship. Building on contextual 
liberation theologies to develop approaches, rituals, and spiritual practices that assist 

84 Rodman, “Afro-Anglican Catechesis” Conference on Afro-Anglicanism, Codrington College, Barbados, 
June 17-22, 1985,3. 

85 Rodman, “Walk About Zion,” 445, 463-464. 


Afro- Anglicans and Black diasporic communities to effectively appreciate and negotiate 
their cultural, theological, economic, and political differences so as to build a unity within 
the diversity is critical to revisioning the Afro- Anglican Church . 86 The emerging identity 
of the Afro-descended people living in the United States offers the Afro- Anglican Church 
an opportunity to equip these communities to hear the various narratives contained within 
and understand the connections or sinews that connect diverse populations of Black 
people. This listening will also require space to affirm the particularities of differences 
and nuances ste mming from cultural differences. Concerns about identity of the 
community and Afro-Anglican Church raise significant issues needing attention and 
clarification. They are best engaged as Afro-Anglican congregations clarifying their 
purpose and vision. This will allow them to respond to the needs of the Afro-descended 
community with revitalized ministries, programs, service and leadership. 

Chapter 4 Discernment, Leadership & Praxis for Change & Transformation 

Ed Rodman best articulates the pathway to the goal of inclusivity and renewal 
required to leverage the potential of the Afro-Anglican Church to be a transformed and 
transforming presence in the challenging and diverse context of today’s diverse Black 
comm u nities. He writes: 

Many of our congregations throughout the Anglican Communion have some of 

the best educated, talented minds in the world, and not to use them to attack the 

86 Rodman, “Afro-Anglican Catechesis,” 2-6. 


problems of the community is a sacrilege - not to mention an insult to their 
intelligence and ability. In this sense, our goal should be to build Christian 
communities that are inclusive and representative of the diversity of the 
co mmuni ties in which we live, that draw upon the weaknesses and problems of 
the dispossessed in order to challenge the creativity and the talent of the powerful 
and the strong. Modeling such inclusivity and renewal becomes a paradigm for 
the world community that cherishes differences - supports healing - and has 
confidence in the gifts that God has given us all . 87 

Realizing the paradigm of building inclusive Christian communities that use their 
gifts and talents to be responsive to the needs of the vulnerable and dispossessed, 
challenging institutions, systems, and powers and supporting healing and reconciliation 
involves act ualizing a vision of liberation, love, justice and transformation. It requires 
the living into the meaning of the contextual liberation theologies previously discussed. 
Such a paradigm does not happen sua sponte, but rather through active discernment 
linked with effective leadership. Inspiring and developing shared visions, which move 
communities toward the realization of transformation and renewal, requires communities 
to learn, develop, and sustain leadership. Many models of leadership exist and can be 
used to promote new paradigms of learning and being. Space does not allow me to 
address the multitude of approaches that can advance the agenda of transforming the 
Afro- Anglican Church. This project will therefore identify some fundamental elements 
needed in engaging in envisioning and living into new possibilities. This type of 
revisioning is itself a foundational leadership behavior needed for change and renewal. 
Revisioning for Renewal 


Rodman, “Afro- Anglican Catechesis,” 15. 


This thesis opened with a picture of All Soul’s Episcopal Church in Harlem with 
the belief that identifying and naming the lived experiences and challenges of Afro- 
Anglican congregations is an important step in revisioning for renewal. Like many other 
Episcopal congregations, too many Afro-Anglican congregations face significant 
challenges to their viability, survival, and capacity to minister in the context of their 
imm ediate neighborhoods and broader communities. “Being church” for these 
congregations exists as separate and related questions of mission, vision and 
congregational development. Much of the challenge they face is beyond the technical 
challenges of prior years. The Black Episcopal presence exists in a postcolonial context 
of being both Black Episcopalian and Afro-Anglican. This increasingly global context is 
reflected in predominantly and historically Black congregations with African American, 
Afro-Caribbean, and African heritage. Multiple understandings of polity and 
congregational leadership are postmodern realities for Afro-Anglican congregations. 
Adaptive leadership is needed to actualize the opportunities framed by those new 
realities. The practice of exemplary adaptive leadership is equally needed in addressing 
the graying pews, aging infrastructure, shrinking resources and rapidly changing 

The Case for Developing Adaptive Leadership in the Church 

The practice of adaptive leadership is centered on mobilizing people to “tackle 
tough challenges and thrive.” It specifically focuses on supporting change that enables 
people and organizations to enhance their capacity to thrive. Experts on adaptive 


leadership discuss the practice as extending from work on leadership, adaptation, systems 
and change . 88 Competency in adaptive leadership is critical for the transformation of the 
Afro- Anglican Church. This transformation is not aimed merely at survival. The goal of 
filling the pews and increasing the membership base, budget and resources is not the 
purpose of the change and intervention proposed. Rather, Afro- Anglicans are called to 
grapple with questions of mission, ministry, worship and service to do the work of 
justice, healing, peace building and transformation in the world and church. Adaptive 
leadership practice equips people to grapple with the underlying questions, issues and 
dynamics essential for this type of change. Adaptive leaders must deal with questions of 
value, purpose and process. These core questions parallel the challenge of clarifying 
mission and ministry. These questions, placed in the context of the interrelated 
challenges and postmodern context of Afro-Anglican congregations, are beyond the 
scope of technical challenges. Technical challenges can be addressed through the 
application of expertise and refining current structures and procedures. Technical 
challenges are susceptible to refining the way work is being conducted. Adaptive 
challenges differ from technical challenges in that their resolution requires changes in 
priorities, beliefs, habits and loyalties . 89 This necessarily involves displacement, changing 
and rearranging foundational aspects of the community or organization practicing 
adaptive leadership. The practice of adaptive leadership assists in identifying, naming, 

88 Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and 

Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2009), 13-14. 


Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 19. 


and addressing the loss created in meeting the adaptive challenge. 

Applying Adaptive Leadership to Congregational Settings 

The adaptive leadership lens is particularly attractive in the congregational setting 

because of the hard wiring of ways of being reinforced by relationships, heritage and 

history. The proponents of adaptive leadership stress that the approach respects the past. 

A challenge for adaptive leadership, then, is to engage people in distinguishing 
what is essential to preserve from their organizations heritage from what is 
expendable. Successful adaptations are thus both conservative and progressive. 
They make the best possible use of previous wisdom and know-how. The most 
effective leadership anchors change in die values, competencies, and strategic 
orientations that should endure in the organization . 90 

This challenge requires a level of communication that extends beyond traditional 

discussion. It is an engagement built on trust and relationship. It is also more than 

relationship building. It requires a degree of understanding of organizational 

development, leadership, and human development. Pointing to the value of the past while 

promoting a culture of adaptive leadership can be invaluable in addressing anxieties 

around loss of essential aspects of the community. Adaptive challenges require learning 

by the stakeholders to define the problem and craft solutions . 91 An essential approach to 

facilitating the process of stakeholders defining and crafting solutions is listening to the 

needs of the stakeholders and assisting them in their own listening capacity. These are 

critical tools of discernment. I posit that a praxis-based Afro- Anglican approach to 

discernment is critical for the development of adaptive leadership in Afro-Anglican 


Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky,15. 


Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 20. 


congregations. Transformation requires the ability of institutions and systems to change. 
Dynamic and transforming systems are open, adaptable and willing to change. 
Congregations as Learning Community: A Path to Metanoia 
My vision for the Afro- Anglican Church engaged in dynamic revisioning is one 
that is open to change and transformation and capable of incorporating the feedback and 
learning. For too long congregations have focused on maintaining buildings and the 
infrastructure and administration to sustain a limited realization of the mission of the 
church that too often emphasizes the spiritual well-being of its members. As a learning 
community, the re visioned Afro- Anglican Church is capable of the metanoia or shift of 
mind essential to this significant paradigm shift from inward-looking Church to a 
mission-shaped Church that begins by looking at the world . 92 The capacity of Afro- 
Anglican Churches to value their heritage while learning from the emerging future is a 
one of the competencies of discernment needed in today’s dynamically changing and 
multi-centered context . 93 This invaluable competency involves listening to the most 
marginalized, unpopular and oppressed. 

Chapter 5 A Promising Congregational Visioning Process: Church of the Holy Spirit 

Having described the role and application of developing adaptive leadership and 
the role of the learning for congregational visioning, I will now discuss a concrete 

92 Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 

93 C. Otto Schwarmer, Theory U: Leading From the Future as It Emerges (San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler, 


example of such a holistic and integrated model. A replicable approach for the visioning 
and rei magining of the Afro-Anglican church is being developed and executed at the 
Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan, Massachusetts. Church of the Holy 
Spirit is currently undergoing a visioning and strategic planning process, which is 
ongoing at this writing. The qualitative value of its outcome is yet to be determined. 
Nonetheless, the design and guiding principles provide sufficient substance to warrant 
consideration in a broader context. I will give a brief description of the congregation to 
situate the relevance of its visioning and planning process to the broader Afro-Anglican 
Church. This will be followed by a discussion of the elements of the Church of the Holy 
Spirit’s planning process and a description of the praxis of its strategic plan. 

Why Church of the Holy Spirit? A History & Context 

Church of the Holy Spirit celebrated its 125 th anniversary in 201 1 and sits in the 
heart of Mattapan Square. Founded at a time when Mattapan and the surrounding 
communities were predominantly white, the congregation and the proximate 
neighborhoods in Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury are today heavily Black. The 
congregation’s transition from being a white parish to an Afro-Anglican congregation 
followed the population shifts in Mattapan that began in the 1960s. The assembled 
congregation of Church of the Holy Spirit is Afro-Anglican and includes people from the 
African Diaspora. The majority of the members are Afro-Caribbean with a smaller 
number of African Americans and Africans. The Afro-Caribbean members represent a 
broad range of English-speaking islands, Haiti, and Latin American countries such as 


Honduras, Costa Rico, and Panama. Church of the Holy Spirit reflects the growing 
numbers of Haitian and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to the Boston neighborhood of 
Mattapan. Mattapan is contiguous with Dorchester and Roxbury and each is largely 
Black and Latino with significant socioeconomic challenges. 94 The congregation has 
nearly three hundred households on its membership rolls. Its ministries include after- 
school tutoring, a senior program for immigrants and English classes for Haitian 
immigrants. The congregation runs an independent non-profit corporation which 
operates the church-owned Senior Housing and a separate building adjoining the church 
which houses Head Start and the Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). 
Church of the Holy Spirit sits on the executive committee for Mattapan United. Funded 
by Local Initiative Support Corporation’s Resilient Communities/Resilient Families 
Initiative, Mattapan United was created in 201 1 to improve the life chances and 
environment of the residents living in Mattapan. 95 

The congregation is concerned that its youth ministry and young adult presence 
could be stronger. Church of the Holy Spirit is also witnessing an increased number of 
aging members in need of pastoral care and elder services. The leadership seeks to 
enhance the congregation’s current programmatic outreach, ministry and service to 

94 Cite. 

95 ABCD is the convening organization for Mattapan United which includes the following partner 
organizations: Mattapan Food and Fitness; SPARK/Boston Medical Center; Mattapan Community Health 
Center; Boston Nature Center; Haitian American Public Health Initiatives; Church of the Holy Spirit; 
Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Community. The organization’s community vision: “Mattapan 
United envisions community grassroots engagement that creates an identity of Mattapan as a dynamic, 
desirable place to live, work and visit.” 


Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury. Furthermore, it seeks to leverage its location in the 
heart of Mattapan Square and open church-owned land for increased community 
presence, service and impact. Church of the Holy Spirit’s visioning and planning takes 
places against this background. 

Visioning & Planning As a Learning Community 

I worked with Rev. Zenetta Armstrong, Rector of Holy Spirit, to co-create a 
holistic and integrative visioning and planning process for Church of the Holy Spirit . 96 
The process seeks to reinforce the importance of discernment of the congregation’s 
vocation by structuring opportunities to engage the entire congregation in dialogue. It 
draws upon the guiding principles of the learning organization or community concept to 
foster an environment where the congregation can collectively understand and apply 
lessons of adaptive leadership. A primary principle of learning organizations is nurturing 
new patterns of thinking, unleashing a collective vision and learning that foster alignment 
between vision, mission, and systems. 

The design of the process differs from many strategic planning approaches 
because it incorporates leadership development and learning opportunities in die 
visio ning process. Each session includes learning objectives informed by the five 
disciplines articulated by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the 
Learning Organization. They include systems thinking, personal mastery, mental 

96 Rev. Zenetta Armstrong’s twenty-year tenure as rector includes a ten-year period as co-rector, 
overseeing Church of the Holy Spirit’s transition from a predominantly white parish to an Afro- Anglican 

97 Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline (New York: Doubleday Currency, 1990, 2006), 13-14. 


models, building shared vision, and team learning. Systems thinking allows people to 
understand that churches, business, government and other human endeavors involve 
relationships to patterns and actions that are visibly and invisibly connected. Personal 
mastery as a discipline acknowledges the importance of continually clarifying, 
deepening, and focusing our energies on our personal vision. It recognizes the 
importance of creating space for individuals to identify and articulate their highest 
personal aspirations. Mental models are generalizations and assumptions that influence 
the way people understand the world. These understandings influence the actions and 
decisions of individuals and organizations. The discipline of recognizing mental models 
helps people to “unearth our internal pictures of the world” and bringing diem into 
“leamingful conversations.” Building shared visions affirms the value of deeply shared 
goals, values, and missions. Team learning starts with dialogue that rewards and 
reinforces the suspension of assumptions to exercise authentic “thinking together.” 
Senge’s model of learning organizations emphasizes that disciplines are not best practices 
developed, measured, and implemented by others. Disciplines are developmental 
pathways to help people and organizations gain proficiency and competency in 
knowledge, skills and attitudes identified as necessary for one particularized context." 
The discussion of the church as a learning community is a topic of discussion by clergy, 
theologians, and congregational development consultants. The visioning model 

98 Senge, 6-10. 
" Senge, 11. 


discussed herein attempts to discover and explore the application of experimentation and 
innovation using this paradigm . 100 

Leadership as Everyone 's Business: Ordained & Laity 

The Church of the Holy Spirit’s visioning process recognizes the challenges of 
problematizing and transforming traditional notions of leadership and agency within 
traditional congregations. During my initial consultation with the positional leadership, 
the rector expressed a desire for greater involvement of the congregation’s membership in 
the ministries, programs, service, operations, and community engagement of church. The 
vestry identified the challenge of “the same people doing all the work.” These 
observations highlighted the need to incorporate leadership development and capacity 
building into the of the visioning process. Each session incorporates the principles and 
values embedded in the five leadership behaviors developed by Barry Posner and James 
Kouzes in The Leadership Challenge model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge 
the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart . 101 

The behaviors intersect well with the five disciplines of the learning organization: 
systems thinking, personal master, shared vision, mental models, and team learning. The 
applications for congregations are explored in Kouzes and Posner’s Christian Reflections 

100 See Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge ed. James Kouzes and Barry Posner (San 
Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2004); Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook and Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Born of Water, 
Born of Spirit: Supporting the Ministry of the Baptized in Small Congregations (Herndon, VA: The Alban 
Institute, 2010), 95-98; Norma Cook Everist, The Church as Learning Community: Comprehensive Guide 
to Christian Education (Nashville: Abington Press, 2002); Dennis Campbell, Congregations as Learning 
Communities: Tools for Shaping Your Future (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2000); Thomas Hawkins. 
The Learning Congregation: A New Vision of Leadership (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 

101 Kouzes and Posner, 14-25. 


on The Leadership Challenge and underscored in Kujawa-Holbrook and Thompsett’s 
Born of Water, Born of Spirit: Supporting Ministry of the Baptized in Small 
Congregations. 102 Particularly useful to Church of the Holy Spirit is the training module 
developed by Kouzes and Posner entitled Leadership is Everyone ’s Business. The 
module is easily tailored and adapted to particularized context. It uses the Leadership 
Practices Inventory (LPI) to assist individuals in identifying their leadership strengths by 
assessing how often they engage in identified behaviors that support effective leadership. 
References to these behaviors are made in the working session of the visioning. 
Additional application of the behaviors and training module will be discussed later. 

Liberating a Congregation ’s Visioning with Guidelines 

Each session of the visioning process involves a discussion of guidelines that 
govern individual and group behavior during the convening. Church of the Holy Spirit 
elected to adopt the “Guidelines for Recognizing and Valuing Differences” developed by 
VISIONS, Inc . 103 The “Guidelines for Recognizing and Valuing Difference” are 
invaluable to a visioning process for a congregation seeking to discern God’s work of 
transformation, reconciliation, and renewal . 104 The guidelines are incorporated in the 

102 Kujawa-Holbrook and Thompsett, 100-101. 

103 VISIONS guidelines ask participants to try on processes and content that might be new and different; 
it’s okay to disagree, it’s not okay to blame, shame, attack, oneself others; practice self-focus; practice 
“both/and” thinking; be aware of intent and impact; take 100 percent responsibility for one’s own learning; 
maintain confidentiality. 

104 William Kondrath, God's Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences (Herndon, VA: The 
Alban Institute, 2008), 3-4. 


pedagogy of the Episcopal Divinity School. William Kondrath explores their application 
for congregations in God's Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences } 05 

Initial Consultation with Congregational Leadership 

The visioning process began with consultation with the rector and the facilitator in 
order to identify the aims, goals, and desired outcomes for the process. It also provided 
context for the current visioning. Similar consultation was conducted between the 
facilitator and the wardens of the vestry. This dialogue further informed the assessment of 
the congregational perspective about the perceived value of a visioning process. 
Consulting with the rector and wardens separately provided invaluable information for 
the elements, principles and content needed to support the aspirations of the clergy and 
lay leadership for the process and resulting plan. 

Design of Model & Process 

The desire for a holistic and integrated model incorporating the above-mentioned 
elements led to the identification of the learning organization, Kouzes & Posner’s 
leadership behaviors, and the VISIONS guidelines as foundational components of the 
plan. These sources do not explicitly address the spiritual and religious context of 
congregational visioning. George Thompson’s Futuring Your Church: Finding Your 
Vision and Making It Work was selected to further inform the development of the 

10S Kondrath recommends that churches add two additional guidelines to the VISIONS guidelines: it’s okay 
to be messy or make mistakes, and to say ouch when words or actions impact you in the group work. 
Church of the Holy Spirit incorporated these guidelines to its visioning process; Kondrath, 4, 25. 


visioning design . 106 The text suggests congregations seek develop a process which 
intentionally engages its theological bearing and understanding, heritage and history, and 
current context as sources for visioning. Thompson advises that congregations ground 
the activities of the visioning process in prayer, dialogue and worship. The 
incorporation of these components led to a design which included the following 
activities: vestry retreat, identification of planning bodies, commissioning of the plan, 
sermons addressing the visioning process, focus group sessions, leadership development 
training, development and communication of the visioning document, calling forth gifts, 
and support of clergy aspirations. 

Vestry Retreat 

A vestry retreat was designed which incorporated the key elements of the 
visioning plan. The retreat began with presentation of the VISIONS Guidelines. The 
vestry engaged in exercises that were grounded in the disciplines and behaviors of the 
learning organization. The vestry explored the congregation’s theological understanding, 
heritage and context. This exploration and discovery preceded the environmental scan of 
the congregation’s external threats, external opportunities, internal weaknesses and 
internal strengths. The onsite evaluation of the retreat’s design, structure and facilitation 
led to the decision to formally adopt the learning community and leadership development 
frameworks to support the visioning process. Participants also valued the incorporation of 

106 Thompson. 

107 Thompson, 8-13. 


Forming Planning Committees 

Church of the Holy Spirit formed two planning bodies to form the core 
committees for the development of the strategic plan: the Strategic Planning Committee 
and Guiding Coalition. The Strategic Planning Committee was charged with analyzing 
information gained through focus groups, surveys and individual interviews. The 
committee identified trends and themes from the data and will meet to develop drafts of 
the strategic plan. The committee is an intergenerational group, which includes youths, 
seniors, with people representing the diversity of the congregation. The Guiding 
Coalition’s is charged with provided feedback on the work of the Strategic Planning 
Committee. It gives feedback to the process visioning and the content of the work of the 
emerging strategic plan. Vestry members are assigned to participate on each committee. 
The rector is an ex-officio member of both planning bodies. 

Commissioning of the Visioning and Planning Process 

The visioning process and members of the planning bodies were commissioned 
during a worship service prior to the commencement of any committee work. The 
commissioning ceremony began with the members of the congregation renewing their 
baptismal vows. Members of the planning bodies committed to engage in prayerful 
reflection and discernment by courageously and faithfully listening for the ways God is 
working in the congregation and the surrounding neighborhoods. The members of the 
congregation committed to pray to God for the strength, courage, and compassion to 


imagine a new future and meet occasionally to learn to perform the work of 
reconciliation, compassion and justice in the surrounding community. 

Other Ways of Incorporating the Visioning in Worship 

The liturgical calendar was used to preach sermons that reinforced the importance 

of committing time, energy and other resources to collectively discern individual and 

congregational vocation. For example, a sermon was preached on the third Sunday of 

Advent that connected the Collect’s call to pray for God to intervene through grace and 

strength, transform us and the world with the visioning and discernment of the planning 


Congregational Participation & Focus Groups 

Focus groups served as a primary modality for soliciting and obtaining feedback 
and input of members of the congregation to the visioning process. The holistic and 
integrated nature of the visioning was discussed in each focus group. The VISIONS 
guidelines were used to govern the interaction of the groups. The congregation was 
invited to participate in prayerful dialogue about the “futuring” of the ministry, service 
and leadership of the congregation given the church’s theological bearing, heritage and 
context. Most gatherings grouped people of similar backgrounds, interests or roles. 

Focus groups for young adults, youth, seniors, and parents with young families were 
held. Other focus groups are planned for members of Haitian, Honduran and Afro-Latino 

108 Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and because we are sorely hindered by 
our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to 
whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Book of Common Prayer, 212. 


heritage. Open focus groups were also conducted without regard to the background or 
interests of participants. 

Leadership Training 

Leadership development is a key aspect of the visioning and planning process of 
Church of the Holy Spirit. Incorporating the values and concepts of the learning 
organization into the congregation’s praxis for visioning and planning provided the 
platform for training and teaching leadership frameworks and competencies. Kouzes and 
Posner’s Leadership Practices Inventory along with the Leadership is Everyone ’s 
Business Workshop is planned as a congregation-wide leadership development 
opportunity. The weekend event is intended to contextualize the transformation of 
congregational assumptions and exercise of leadership. Focused learning of leadership 
competencies was included in the process. Leadership development for congregational 
youth was incorporated into the youth focus group session. Teenagers and preteens 
connected to Church of the Holy Spirit as members, or participants in the tutoring and 
sports team participated in a leadership development session based on Seven Habits of 
Highly Effective Teens and related workbook . 109 Participants engaged in dialogue and 
conversation related to reimagining a congregation that is more responsive to the 
addressing the needs and aspirations of youth members of the church and residents of the 
surrounding communities. 

Synthesizing the Vision into a Strategic Plan 

109 Sean Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teem (New York: Fireside, 1998). 


The Strategic Pl anning Committee met periodically to process data collected from 
the Vestry Retreat, Guiding Coalition, and focus groups to identify themes and trends. 
They engaged in prayerful dialogue to develop strategies to leverage the internal 
strengths of the congregation to minimize the external threats facing it and maximize the 
external opportunities for ministry and service. They also discussed ways to address the 
internal weaknesses of the congregation. The strategic thinking took place in the context 
of reflection on the felt needs of the surrounding community. Attention was paid to 
hearing God’s voice and discerning God’s will for the congregation. Discussion about 
development of new approaches to Christian formation and enhanced education and 
lea rning opportunities was incorporated into the emerging plan. The results of the 
prayerful dialogue, visioning, and strategy sessions will be distilled in a draft plan 
developed jointly by the Rector, Vestry and Strategic Planning Committee. The Guiding 
Coalition will provide feedback into the initial drafts of the plan. The Vestry and 
Strategic Planning Committee will respond to the feedback of the Guiding Coalition 
before voting on the final plan. 

Communicating the Plan 

The core values, strategic direction, and re-imagined ministry, worship, and 
service for Church of the Holy Spirit will be shared in the context of a worship service. A 
congregational forum will be held following the service to distribute an executive 
summary of the plan. An overview of the plan and its implications for the congregation’s 
ministry, worship, service and leadership will be shared during the forum. The forum will 


be the first of several congregation wide opportunities to engage in dialogue about the 
vision, direction, and implementation of the strategic plan. 

Calling Forth Gifts 

Members of the congregation will be invited to identify, name and share the gifts 
and talents they wish to pledge toward implementing the reimagined vision for the 
church, in the context of worship. The Rector, Stewardship Committee Chairperson, 
Senior and Junior Wardens will discuss the development of multi-layered approaches to 
incorporating the pledges of time and talent from the calling forth of gifts into the work 
of the congregation. Additional leadership and skill development opportunities will be 
identified to support those offering to serve in support of the new strategic plan. 

This contemplated meeting is scheduled to precede the scheduling of a meeting 
between the vestry and the rector about the particularized impact on her ministry and 
leadership. This planned dialogue is envisioned to create a space for the rector to share 
the areas that she would like to focus specific attention on based on her own gifts, talents, 
and special interests. The intention is to identify ways to enhance and support mutual 
ministry that fosters the fruits of the spirit in the ministry of the clergy and the laity. 

Visual and Performing Arts to Support and Communicate the New Vision 
Artistic interpretations of the vision, values and imagination of the strategic plan 
will be developed by visual and performing artists in the congregation and seminarians of 


the Episcopal Divinity School. The congregation’s youth and adult members and others 
involved in the church’s ministries and programs will be invited to share their creative 
interpretations of the plan. Artistic interpretations of the plan will be incorporated in the 
liturgy of worship and physical plant of the church and its property. 

September Services & Re-Visiting the Vision Anew 

The interpretations will be combined with a series of sermons in September 
designed to invite the congregation to recommit to the work envisioned months earlier 
during the active visioning and planning period. Developing innovative venues and 
modalities for repeatedly communicating the plan’s vision is essential to effectively 
implementing the change and transformation contemplated in the plan. Strategies for 
empowering broad-based action, generating short-term success, and consolidating the 
embodied success to produce more change will be developed and implemented as the 
visioning process unfolds. Whether the transformation envisioned in the plan will be 
effective in anchoring change into the culture and systems of Church of the Holy Spirit is 
yet to be determined. 1 10 Church of the Holy Spirit provides an opportunity to study a 
lived revisioning of a vibrant and vital Afro-Anglican congregation. 

110 John Kotter, Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), 20-31. 


Chapter 6 Conclusions and Future Work 

Afro-Anglican congregations of the Episcopal Church in the United States have a 
rich heritage to assist them in reimagining their ministry and service for the future. St. 
Thomas African Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, St. Philips Episcopal Church, and St. 
James Episcopal Church, Baltimore serve as historic examples of Afro-Anglicans 
committed to serving their local neighborhoods and communities. They viewed meeting 
the needs of Afro-descended people as a core responsibility. Each congregation offers a 
particular legacy of community responsive ministry. The early histories of these parishes 
build on the interplay between Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, the Free African Society, 
and the Prince Hall Masons. The dynamic interaction among these players led to the birth 
of the institutional Black church in the United States. St. Thomas African Episcopal 
Church was the first Black and first Afro-Anglican Church in the country. It sought to 
address the religious and spiritual needs of its members and the broader community while 
responding in concrete ways to the economic, social, and political challenges of the Black 
community in Philadelphia. These challenges were significant and warranted aggressive 
advocacy, effective organization, and consistent pastoral presence. 

Different obstacles and structural inequities facing confront Black communities 
today. Political, social and economic progress transformed file condition and 
opportunities for the Afro descended people in the United States. Structural inequities 
and systemic oppression persist and continue to pose significant barriers for significant 
numbers of Black women, men and children. Inadequate schools, economic dislocation 


caused by chronic levels of high unemployment and disinvestment m Black 
neighborhoods and institutions has led to a growing number of impoverished children and 
families. Massive incarceration of Black men created by the War on Drugs is crippling 
generations of individuals, families and communities. The full effect is only beginning to 

be studied and revealed. 

What is the appropriate response or intervention? Some argue over the 
appropriate political agenda needed to combat the current situation affecting Black 
people. These discussions are warranted, but insufficient to adequately respond to the 
situation. The challenge is further complicated by the changing demographics and 
notions of identity with Black communities. Civic engagement, policy development, and 
economic redevelopment are needed. People also need integrated approaches to 
religious, educational, and spiritual development. Afro-Anglicanism can play a role in 
implementing holistic service and ministry to respond to these needs of Black people, 
families and communities. This is the lesson from Absalom Jones and St. Thomas 
African Episcopal Church. Current models of Afro- Anglican congregational 
responsiveness to community needs exist in places like St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church 
located in Southside Chicago and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. 

The ability of a replicating these mission shaped models of service requires a 
commitment to revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church. The proposed revisioning 
involves a shift of paradigm from a focus on quick fixes to church growth to building the 
capacity for adaptive leadership. A key competency of adaptive leadership is inspiring, 


developing and implementing a shared vision for the future. The model of visioning and 
strategic planning developed at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan, Massachusetts 
is worthy of consideration. It provides a holistic approach to congregational discernment 
through the adoption of principles of learning organizations. Focus groups, leadership 
development workshops, and planning sessions provide multiple opportunities for 
prayerful dialogue. Spiritually grounded discernment, traditional strategic planning, and 
adaptive leadership development are integrated with tools and instruments supporting 
anti-racism and anti-oppression. The strength of the approach is its ability to pierce veils 
of silence and break open the promise of looking with Gospel eyes at ways to respond to 

needs of the community and the congregation. 

Next steps include revisiting the Church of the Holy Spirit to observe and 
measure the impact and effectiveness of its visioning process. An opportunity to develop 
similar approaches in other Afro-Anglican congregations is equally significant work 
flowing from this thesis. Discussion of liberative theologies that are responsive to the 
multiple traditions, contexts, and challenges of an increasingly diverse Black community. 
Engagement of Womanist, Black, and postcolonial theologies may inform such a 
discussion. This work should be developed with further examination of the emerging 
identify of the Afro-Anglican Church and Black communities. The emerging liberative 
theology should inform and support the paradigm shift intended to flow from visioning 
within Afro-Anglican congregations. This would be a significant step in developing a 
liberation Afro-Anglican praxis for responding to the needs of Black communities. It 


starts with clarification of purpose through visioning capable of revitalizing, reenergizing 
and restoring the capacity of congregations to minister and serve people inside and 

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